January 2016 - Carnival Glory to Caribbean - Western
My husband wrote the following for his blog. I believe it makes a nice review of everything that happened so here goes: Saturday the 16th – our sailing day – was uneventful and lovely. Nope, strike that. We arrived early. So early that it seemed that the other cruise ships had not disembarked yet, so the parking garage that was sitting directly in front of our terminal was full. So we had to find parking elsewhere. We ended up parking in Garage G. Our terminal – Terminal D. So our vacation starts with us walking about 2 1/2 miles away from our own terminal. But… that’s a minor inconvenience. After all, we’re headed out to the Caribbean! One minor hiccup. The rest of the day fell without a hitch really. Checking in was relatively easy. We unpacked for the week, got to know where our traveling companions’ cabin was – another balcony! Theirs was at the very front of the ship, ours in the very back. So we’d meet in the middle for activities. Fun! The rest of the day should be uneventful. Nope. During the muster drill in which they pack us in like sardines into a cramped and only slightly ventilated hallway, my wife nearly passes out. We hadn’t left port yet and she’s feeling nauseated and chilly. We went back to the room and sat there until the feeling went away. She felt better soon enough.
Our first evening, we pampered ourselves by having dinner at the onboard high-end steakhouse. Fabulous meal. And by selecting the steakhouse for the first night, we were treated to a nice complementary bottle of wine. Lovely night.
Sunday the 17th. Day two of our cruise and one of two “Fun Days at Sea” began well enough. We went to have brunch at the main dining room, since we wanted to avoid the madhouse that was the buffet area. We were joined only by our friend for brunch. , her husband, was back in the room feeling nauseated and chilly. Well, crud.
Breakfast done, we ventured out to the deck for a little morning sunshine and maybe the hot tub. We picked out a couple of lounge chairs, and I watched our things while the girls enjoyed the hot tub. I wanted to get some quiet time in. Nope. It was about this point that I noticed that there was an EXTRAORDINARY amount of people standing on the starboard side of the deck, many of which had cameras pointed at the sky. Well, not the sky actually. More like a Coast Guard chopper. See, apparently in the middle of the night some major life threatening event happened to someone onboard. It had to have been huge because throughout the evening the ship had turned around and was headed back to American waters to have the Coast Guard available to airlift someone off the ship. As of this writing, I don’t know what happened. I’m thinking it was a massive heart attack. Whatever it was however was enough to get the ship off course and back to the mainland.
During the evacuation, I’m doing my best not to be one of the hundreds of people standing on the deck pointing an electronic object at what should be a very difficult, delicate and private affair. The passenger was finally airlifted off the ship, everyone cheered and the cruise director announced that we were turning the ship and would be back on our intended course. So I put on my headphones, turn on my music player, and try to enjoy the day.
Nope. It was about this point that I notice that the water in the pool is moving back and forth – not a gently swaying motion, but starting to look like a wave pool. The people in the pool were at first enjoying the sloshing, but at some point it got a bit more rough than was liked. Then the wind kicked up, gusting pretty fast. I was in the middle of a sitcom, with me playing the John Ritter role: a lounge chair on either side of me topped wither personal items and me attempting to make sure they don’t fly away in the wind; meanwhile the pool that I happen to be sitting in front of is causing waves crashing outside of the pool walls and dousing me with salt water. Again, pure sitcom gold. However, in the moment, I was miserable, wet and cold, praying that the two ladies would appear soon so I could beg them to watch their own stuff while I got a chance to dry off. Well, they did come back soon enough, due to my wife beginning to feel nauseated again. So, we went back to the room to lay down. We did not come back out.
Over the course of that day we learned that because the Captain made the decision to turn around back towards the Florida Keys, we were literally racing to get back to our original course. So we were traveling at about 20 knots. Most cruise ships on a sea day will travel at about 10. Should be back on course soon enough.
Nope.The weather started getting rough. The tiny ship was tossed. (Sorry, had to do that.) But that’s exactly what happened. The storm system, the very one that hit the east coast of the U.S. just a few days ago, was affecting the waters of the Atlantic and the Caribbean. High winds caused the water to be choppy and difficult to manage. So, while the Captain was doggedly determined to get us around the island of Cuba to reach our destination in the Grand Cayman Islands just south of Cuba, the weather had become a very unwilling child, determined to throw a hissy fit. It became impossible to sustain that high speed and navigate the waters safely. And of course due to the stability and weather issues many of the onboard entertainment had to be readjusted for the safety of everyone involved.
The decision came down approximately 13 hours before our intended arrival time that we were absolutely not going to make it to Grand Cayman early enough to enjoy any time there, so our itinerary was reversed, making Grand Cayman our last stop and making Cozumel the first. This also meant that our relaxing beach massage, which was supposed to herald our final day, would be the first thing we’d do. I was disappointed. My wife even more so.
Prior to arrival in Cozumel, we were told that due to the inclement weather, many of the water activities could not be done. No scuba, no snorkeling, no underwater helmet Sea Trek, no parasailing, no… well, you get the picture.
Luckly for us, we had planned a relaxing day at Chankanab Park in Cozumel. We enjoyed a leisurely walk on the beach, high winds kicking up once in a while, as we watched nobody out on that choppy water. To be fair, Chankanab Park is very pretty with a lovely beach, nice restaurants at decent prices, a crocodile farm where you can learn about these facinating creatures, an area where they have recreations of ancient Native Mexican artifacts and temples. And a natural spa where they give amazing massages by small Mexican women with extraordinarily strong hands. Chankanab Park is located very close to the dock, about a 5 minute drive by cab. The friendly taxi drivers will take you there and back, costing only $6 per person each way. One uneventful and lovely dinner later, we attempted to drift back to sleep, the now ever-present light rocking of the ship
Day 4. Belize. Our day started off gloomy and became more so throughout the day. One thing to note about the Belize cruise port, if you ever decide to make this trip yourself, is that the cruise ships do not dock there. There is navigable docking area for Belize due to the barrier reef that surrounds the area. Therefore there will never be a dock in Belize unless some idiot decides to destroy the 2nd largest reef system in the world.
So if you ARE going to Belize as one of your destinations, please be aware that you will be tendered from the ship to the shore. A “tender” is a small vessel designed to carry a certain amount of people relatively safely from the anchored cruise ship. In Belize it is a 15 – 20 minute ride, once you get everyone aboard the tender. And these tenders will try to maximize the amount of people on the boat, so you will be sitting there for at least 20 minutes before even moving. Which makes someone who is very prone to motion sickness, like my wife, absolutely miserable. Once we arrived in the Ferry Terminal, we were greeted by the same bars and duty-free shops that are present in every port. Every. Single. Port. One of the things that my wife and I love to do while cruising is getting away from the shops and bars of the terminal, and taking in what ‘real life’ looks like for the people that live in these port cities. In most ports, I would definitely recommend it. I probably would not recommend it for Belize. It is an unbelievably poor and shabby downtown area. We did manage to find a hoodie and a couple of other small souvenirs. But it was an experience. We made it back to the relatively safer terminal searching for something to eat, but nothing really appealed to us since the vast majority of restaurants specialized in getting people as drunk as possible as quickly as possible. So we opted for a $5 can of pringles chips and a 20 minute trip back to the ship.
Day 5 finds us in Honduras, in the lovely port area called Roatan. I must say this was a huge improvement from the first time we visited there. During our first visit years ago, we had to be tendered in, since the dock had not been completed and there were only a few shops and one very busy Fat Tuesdays. Today we were greeted by a beautiful Caribbean plaza with many shops, many of which were family owned instead of just the corporate duty-free shops. There was also a beautiful enclosed beach area called Mahogany Bay. We had been scheduled to enjoy a beach cabana this day, and the weather seemed to co-operate. However…
Our original itinerary had us arriving at Roatan at 10 am and scheduled to leave at 6 pm. But due to our new itinerary we arrived in Roatan at 10 and scheduled to leave by 3 pm. So what should have been a leisurely late morning and late afternoon lying in our air conditioned cabana would have turned out to be an early morning and leaving by 2 to get back on the ship. Nope. Not worth it. We opted for our money back and a quiet afternoon on the ship.
Day 6 was our final destination: Grand Cayman. I like this town. For me it feels comfortable. We had been there once before and found our way to the local grocery store to stock up on some local items. We stopped at a restaurant that we had eaten at the last time we were on the island and unfortunately was disappointed with our meal this time. We did our best to steer clear of the noisy and bustling shopping area loaded with low-priced booze and high-priced everything else. We hadn’t planned on any excursions this day since we had excursions planned at every other port, before the week of nope. So our day was spent relatively quietly.
Day 7, our final day at sea. We took advantage of the restaurants and entertainment onboard this day. I will say this: the shows that we saw on this sailing were amazing. The live shows featured only 8 performers, 4 men, 4 women. Good singers, nice arrangements, high energy. Amazing stage backgrounds. 6 tall LED columns acted as backdrops that could be split apart or brought together to create some jaw-dropping active backdrops that were magnificently created by what I would imagine was a very skillfull team of motion graphic artists. To give you an idea of how amazing it was, my wife – who is a VERY talented motion graphics artist – quipped, “There was singing? I only saw the art on stage!”
So all in all it was a very interesting cruise full of twists and turns and wind and weather. Did we enjoy ourselves? Yes. Were there are a lopt of friendly Carnival workers on the ship? Yes. Were there some EXTREMELY RUDE and unprofessional ones? I am talking about BLAKE at Red Frog who was a complete jerk and needed an attitude adjustment. If you hate giving popcorn to people during the movie, move to another location! We had great company and we made the most of it. A cruise for the books. But we decided one very important thing: Despite everything that happened, we will definitely sail again. But will it be on Carnival? Nope. I think we’ve grown out of that.